Harpeth Hall has a stellar reputation as one of the best private schools in Nashville, but you may not know precisely what sets the all-girls school apart from the pack. We sat down with faculty leaders to learn about four of Harpeth Hall’s premier programs: SEEK, Winterim, Global Scholars, and Public Purpose. Year after year, these programs continue to draw families to Harpeth Hall — here’s why.
For 18 years, Scholars Engaged in Extending Knowledge (SEEK) has encouraged seventh- and eighth-grade students to further explore and expand their academic curiosities through independent study. Program leaders work directly with students to determine special interests and learn the best practices for research. At the end of the program, every student completes a final project to present her findings. This is often done through a written publication, performance, composition, or anything else a student can dream up.
“The uniqueness of the SEEK program is that it’s driven by students’ curiosity,” says SEEK Coordinator Garen Eadie. “There’s a lot of choices involved … and students learn how to say, ‘Okay, this is something I’m really interested in and want to put my time into.’”
Now in its 50th year, Harpeth Hall’s Winterim program takes place three weeks each January and is a defining experience for current students and thousands of alumnae who have looked to learn more about what they love and who they want to become. During this time, students in 11th and 12th grades participate in internships, academic trips, international exchanges, or independent study. Students in 9th and 10th grades choose from over 75 courses covering topics such as marine biology, finance, screenwriting, real estate, and much more. These experiences often determine future career paths.
“Our goal is always to broaden the analytical horizons of our students,” explains Director of Winterim & International Programs Jacquie Watlington. “As they develop wonder, learning, and independence of thought, those things go towards Harpeth Hall’s mission of raising up responsible citizens who can make a difference as they reach beyond our campus.”
Winterim also encourages students to use their voices and dive deeper into topics they’re passionate about. “One of the things that we try to instill in students is that we value their interests,” adds Jacquie. “We also value their voice, choice, and personal learning goals. It empowers them to expand their global perspectives as well because of the opportunities to study and travel in locations they have learned about but never visited … They nurture their growth in areas like critical thinking, competence, and other life skills.”
Global Scholars is a two-and-a-half-year program that invites students in grades 10 through 12 to investigate global issues. Similar to Harpeth Hall’s other premier programs, Global Scholars is open-ended, so students are invited to pick a topic that piques their interest and then dive deep into research.
“First and foremost, we’re looking at this idea of understanding the world and other perspectives and being able to be in dialogue with people who share commonalities or maybe disagree with you wholeheartedly,” explains Global Scholars Coordinator Elizabeth Allen. “Then it’s important to teach students how to have conversations with those people in an informed way.”
In the spring of sophomore year, a student begins the program by picking a global issue she’s interested in learning more about, such as healthcare, regional conflict, climate change, education, or mental health. Then, when students are juniors, they begin to lead discussions, find reliable research sources, and develop research questions. The program ends during senior year when students create a final capstone project.
“I often see students come back who were in Global Scholars and have used those research skills and transferred them far beyond whatever topic they studied here,” says Elizabeth of the program’s impact. “It gave them that first knowledge to view themselves as a researcher.”
Harpeth Hall’s Public Purpose program invites students in grades five through 12 to think critically about local and global issues via service and leadership opportunities. These often cover topics such as health and wellness, humanitarian aid, equality and empowerment, and more.
“Public Purpose comes from the belief that it’s important to us that a student’s experiences and understandings are not limited to this campus,” says Jessie Adams, Harpeth Hall’s Director of Community Engagement and Public Purpose Coordinator. “We are an independent private school, but we’re part of a larger community, so we have a public purpose.”
The program also includes partnerships with organizations in Nashville and beyond. For example, students can volunteer with Nashville Diaper Connection to help close the diaper cap in Middle Tennessee. Similarly, since 2011, Harpeth Hall and Lwala Community Alliance have partnered to support a rural village in Western Kenya, providing learning and service opportunities.
Not only do each of these programs help students excel academically and get involved with local and global communities, but they also teach essential life skills that go beyond Harpeth Hall. Students learn to cultivate empathy, prepare for job interviews, communicate effectively via email, and so much more — all while maintaining the freedom to use their voices and promote change.
This article is sponsored by Harpeth Hall. All photography courtesy of Harpeth Hall unless otherwise noted.